Autism is more difficult to diagnose among girls because they can easily hide the signs, according to a recent study.
Boys have been found to be nine times more likely to develop autism than girls and experts assumed that this was due to genetic differences. However, researchers from the University College London and Bristol Universities suggest many more females may have the condition but they are undiagnosed because they can easily mask the signs.
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These findings prompted concern that girls suffering from autism are missing out on key treatment and therapy that is leading them to become more prone to all types of eating disorders and depression later on in life. Figures show that 1.8 percent of boys have been diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder which includes Asperger's, compared to 0.2 percent of girls.
Dr. Radha Kotahri, from UCL's institute of Child Health and colleagues think that many more girls than those reported have the condition. They analyzed data on 3,666 children aged 13 and 14 who took part in a number of key tests to diagnose autism. They found that girls who probably had autism all along were able to hide certain symptoms such as their ability to recognize people's emotions as happy, sad or fearful.
Caroline Hattersly, from the National Autistic Society said: "Historically, research on autism has focused mainly on the experiences of men and boys with the disability. This important study will therefore help us to better diagnose the condition in women and girls. Girls are often better at developing ways to mask what we traditionally think of as the signs of autism. This 'masking' can lead to a great deal of stress, any many girls go on to develop secondary problems such as anxiety, eating disorders or depression."